Gary Robert Ware, a Tauranga College stalwart, has died just days out from the two schools' diamond jubilee celebrations.

He was 80 and died peacefully last Sunday after a short illness.

Gary had a quick wit and mind, friend Bryan Gould said yesterday.

"You were always aware of him if he was in the room. He attracted attention because of the good things he was able to do and say. He was just a lively character."

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He was also a generous community man who volunteered a lot of his time, Gould said.

Gary was one of the founders of Closing the Gap, an organisation devoted to reducing inequality in society. He also worked with Amnesty International.

"Gary certainly got a lot out of life and put a lot into it."

Gould, a Bay of Plenty Times columnist, said he and Gary had a lot in common.

"It's probably something to do with the way that we were able to grow up in such a good environment."

They were close friends at school in Tauranga and the two college old boys reconnected again later in life.

Tauranga College was formed in 1946 before splitting into single-sex schools in 1958: Tauranga Boys' College on the original site, and Tauranga Girls' College on a newly built campus.

The two schools are celebrating their diamond jubilees with reunions this weekend.

Read more: Diamond jubilees to be celebrated by Tauranga boys' and girls' colleges this weekend

Gould said Gary was a "pivotal figure" in the Tauranga Boys' College Old Boys Association and helped spread the word to old college students about this weekend's events.

Tauranga Boys' principal Robert Mangan said Gary was a huge driver behind various school reunions over the years.

He was "a really active, passionate member of the wider college community".

Mangan said it was "very disappointing" Gary would miss the schools' jubilee celebrations but he would acknowledge him and his death at the start of a principal's assembly today.

"And the contribution that he and Marlene have both made to the foundation of the Tauranga Boys' College Old Boys Association and his significant contribution to keeping the spirit of Tauranga College alive as well."

Gary is survived by his wife Marlene, children Sue, Alyn and Ani, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3pm on Tuesday at the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club.

Bryan Gould's tribute column to his friend Gary Ware will be published in Monday's Bay of Plenty Times.